And at the risk of sounding shrill as I repeat myself, “unless someone is dead or nearly so, don’t call me!” Really. I mean it.
The latest non-life threatening emergency that presented itself for my immediate attention is the ongoing drama surrounding my older nephew’s premature entry into the adult world.
I am standing in the check out at Safeway yesterday and the phone ringles. It’s the oddest ring tone but the least annoying of the generic options available to me as I don’t (yet) possess a smart phone with all its sci-fi tone upgrading capabilities.
Snatching it up as quickly as the confounding zip locks on my purse will allow, I am expecting a request from Rob. I’d spoken to him a bit earlier, so he knew I was shopping and I thought perhaps he remembered something he wanted me to pick up while I was still in town.
It was Mom.
Since day one of cell phone ownership, Mom’s treated my cell as a homing device. I knew she would. In fact my chief objection to getting a phone was Mom.
“She will see this as permission to track me like an endangered animal on the plains of the Serengeti,” I told my late husband, Will.
He wanted me to have one so that I would “be safe”, but the truth was that he just liked having the same type of instant access to me that I didn’t want to hand over to Mom.
“You can screen her calls with the caller ID,” he said.
“Because having her call me over and over until I picked up would be better than just picking up,” I replied.
I still lost on the issue of carrying a cell phone and Mom went from her habit of leaving me multiple messages on the answering machine to simply stalking me by cell phone if I didn’t answer the home line. The cell phone thing has worked out nicely for everyone but me no matter how one looks at it.
Because it’s the middle of the day on a Tuesday, I know right away that Mom isn’t calling to ask me how my day is going. Like DNOS, weekday calls mean that something is wrong.
“I need to talk to you,” she began.
“I’m standing in the check out at the grocery. Can I call you when I get out to the truck?”
“Okay,” and she hangs up on me before I can even say “good-bye”.
Naturally, I am in the lane of the cashier who least loves her job. She is a dour woman, who moves at the speed of drying paint, so by the time I get to the truck, I have run through a dozen desperate scenarios – which all involve dead or near so relations.
“I’m so worried about N1,” she tells me. “He was up here yesterday for a visit. I made him his favorite lasagna and he couldn’t even eat.”
Mentally, I note that the drama queen gene is overly represented in my nephew, but say,
“Why is he upset this time?”
I’m expecting that he’s made another pitch for a car or asked her to co-sign a lease on an apartment for him because he and his dad are continually at odds, but she tells me that she thinks it’s about his wanting to go to community college and study mechanics.
It’s about no such thing, of course. N1 launched a campaign over the summer to be allowed to move back to D-port, where he went to high school. His dad moved them there a couple of years ago. N1 fell in with a group of older kids – drop-outs to varying degrees – lost interest in school and then quit himself when his dad moved them back to DBQ last winter. He’s moped about ever since, plotting to move back and get a place with some of them and work at a fast food place that someone’s grandmother owns.
It’s a seventeen year old plan and that about sums up the long, short and every which way of it. There is no merit to it. It won’t further his life in any meaningful way because at the end of the experiment (which is where he loses the job, can’t pay his share of the rent or make up the difference his friends won’t be paying either and Mom is stuck with the bill), nothing is gained by way of N1 being even marginally closer to the “contributing adult” status that is fervently wished for by all.
“I think he might be severely depressed,” Mom went on. “Who knows what he might do?”
And I’m thinking now? What the fuck? And why couldn’t she have burdened DNOS with this nonsense after she got off work?
But my wiser younger sis, DNOS, refuses to have anything to do with the half-assed attempts to first aid our nephew’s life. As far as she is concerned, when N1 gets tired of lying in the lumpy mess of a bed he’s made for himself, he will do something related to “constructive” and until he makes a move in a positive direction without help or coercion, he is best left to flounder.
Good point on the “he needs to do this himself” front but it overlooks the fact that N1 is a kid who has mostly been raising himself, and badly, since he was 13. Even before that, parenting isn’t something he’s had too much of.
After fifteen minutes and much reassurance, I talked Mom back off the ledge she tearfully teetered on and promised to talk to N1.
Who wouldn’t give me his damn phone number when I messaged him on Facebook for it.
I’d had it, couldn’t find it and asked him to send it to me. Little monster would only talk to me via “chat”.
And no, I didn’t tell him how much like his mother he was behaving though I was sorely tempted. Baby won’t talk to me in real time either.
Back and forth over the course of the afternoon and evening led me to the conclusion that N1 was playing the drama card for a bit of sympathy from Grandma. In fairness, she is as close to a mother figure as he’s got. It didn’t have to be that way, but I failed time and time again to get custody of N1 while he was growing up. My last attempt came just before he entered middle school and I warned my parents then that it was unlikely that I would be able to take him once he hit his teens for real and they would rue the day they turned me down.*
As per her request, I called Mom back that evening to let her know how N1 was. We discussed again my brother CB’s offer to have N1 come out and live with him in Cali.
DNOS is adamant that N1 not go, but she is hopelessly biased. Baby really hasn’t said how she feels about it except to reiterate her inability to foot his room/board in any way. I don’t know how his dad feels. At the moment, his father seems to be wallowing in regret over his own wasted life**, so he isn’t much use.
For all his faults, CB has been a pretty good father and N1 needs a father. CB was also once a 17-year-old high school drop-out with nothing but more ideas than capital and a GED. He certainly has the right credentials for understanding just what N1 is up against in the real world that the kid hasn’t clue one about navigating.
N1 admitted to “thinking about calling Uncle”. We went back and forth and then he stopped responding.
What he will do now, I haven’t the slightest idea. He’s a lot like his mother. He hates the unknown and invents all sorts of worst case scenarios to justify avoiding change, and while he makes friends easily in new situations, he loses them just as quickly. Partly because he trusts where he shouldn’t and distrusts where he should be more open. It’s a gift he inherited from Baby, who has only rarely lucked into good friends and never into a good relationship.
The last meddling I did was at Mom’s behest. I contacted CB and asked him to talk to N1.
And now, let’s all remember – dead or nearly so – anything else really needs to be referred to someone who actually lives south of the Canadian border.
*And I get no pleasure out of this particular “I told you so” because N1 needed a parent. I can only guess where he’d be today if Baby would have given in and let me raise him the first time I asked when he was two, and there is no sense crying over the spilled milk, but few things make me as angry as adults who waste the little lives that life puts in their care. A wasted child is one of the saddest sights. I encountered so many children as a teacher who were ruined by crappy and/or indifferent parenting.
**He was a 19 year old high school drop-out when Baby got pregnant. She was 25 or 26. N1’s dad was a foil. She used him to try and make the real objective of her attention – a mutual friend of theirs – jealous. This guy, though a royal sleeze, was wise enough to realize that Baby was looking for a baby-daddy. She missed being on welfare.